Friday, October 29, 2021

Halloween Injunction

Our municipal ban on the adult form of Halloween has more than a whiff of political and religious expediency about it. 

Sure, in times of covid it must make sense in principle to put the brakes on an inbound migration of out-of-towners intent on a full night’s worth of costumed revelery. 

Not sure I have ever achieved a more iconic capture on the 31st.
(But, there are others I am fond of...)

Yet local social conservatives of the Christian persuasion have always been a bit sniffy about this non-canonical ritual, fringe at best they kvetch, and this year it happens to fall on a Sunday. 

To make matters worse, the same slightly heavy-handed approach to pestilence control will see the cemeteries shut up the following morning, a more traditional holiday during which Guatemalans have always massed around the graves of their departed loved ones. 

So permission for the ‘gringo’ cultural imposition to go ahead while the indigenous rites are suppressed, was always going to be controversial.* 

Our niece (20s) confided to us earlier in the week that she has already attended three Halloween bashes in full fancy dress, so the younger generation have, as ever, found a way. **

For there rest of us there is always Zoom. (Thanks to my friend Samir in SF for this screengrab.)

Meanwhile, our local gasolinera has put up its Christmas lights already, demonstrating a determination to push straight on through to the next calendrical landmark.

I will still be heading out with my camera around dusk on Sunday, convinced that the PNC won't have been tasked with harassing families. Fingers crossed. 

* Up in el norte a process of reverse cultural annexation seems to be well under way, with celebrations of Día de Muertos increasing annually. 

** Though for some the way has led to a substantial fine. A puerta un bus de la PNC. 

El Caldo


Prepare the word soup, and just look which dumplings float to the surface...

Monday, October 25, 2021

Foundation (Apple TV)

How long will we be suffering the expensive creative aftershocks of Game of Thrones

Here both the source material and the production company make for an unlikely combination for politically-dissolute space opera. 

I was a huge fan of Asimov's original novel, when aged around 13. I didn't get far with the mish-mash of sequels and prequels and I cannot see myself progressing much beyond episode two here.  

They have introduced just enough random acts of violence and stunning visual set-pieces to keep one lurching forward but I cannot see it being enough. (Lee Pace, playing the median-aged member of the decanted imperial triumvirate might just get me through, just as long as he keeps turning up after minimal intervals — maintaining the Pace, so to speak. 

Respect and enjoy the Pace...

Hari Seldon's Pyschohistory is an idea I feel I have moved on from intellectually. And so should the wider culture since the 1950s, so it is odd to see it getting a twenty-first century reboot. (A society that is mathematically and technologically advanced yet at the same time culturally, politically...and philosophically under-developed seems like more of a cop out today.)

Asimov had read his Gibbon* and wanted to explore the idea of imperial decline on a galactic level, along with the notion that in a situation where you know you are screwed, there's stuff the aloof intellectual elite can do to ensure that things end up being maybe a bit less screwed. 

So, beyond the Buck Rogers in Westeros vibe, it is the ponderously worthy theme that must have made this attractive to Apple, as many of their shows (such as The (execrable) Mosquito Coast) have a certain woke smugness baked into them from the start. 

They seem fond of making series featuring avatars of wronged genius who consider themselves superior in fairly immature and annoying ways, and act like proper dummies. (See 'Genius' Bar...) 

That the character of Raych Foss (named in honour of Chris?) is played by the youngish son of 'Ian', the first companion of the Doctor from 1963, seems to present a small scale mathematical challenge of its own. 

In fairness, I very nearly gave up on GOT halfway through episode one. 

* A brand new tome by Edward J. Watts tells the tale of Rome's supposedly 'eternal' decline and fall, a forever fountain of narratives of systemic threat and discourse on paths for renewal for any subsequent era. 

The Deep House (2021)

If I were to mention solely that this is a European movie about an underwater haunted house, you would probably immediately grasp that this is a novel concept stocked with interesting possibilities and then, shortly afterwards, you might possibly also start mentally ticking off the ways it would inherently come packaged with several kinds of botheration which are likely to hinder the fun. 

So, you don't really need me to say anything else about The Deep House, except that the above-the-surface parts have been shot in some seriously attractive countryside in the Languedoc. 

And that social media influencers are rapidly becoming movie-makers' go-to repository of suitably deserving victims...

Saturday, October 23, 2021

Herd it all before...


It's déjà vu season in the UK. The same sort of people are saying the same sort of things they were saying this time last year, right before Lockdown V2.0. 

Like — Look at London, vaccination levels are low, but so are the case levels. Everyone there must have herd immunity....

There's no such thing as herd immunity, dimwits. The New Scientist confirmed it this week with data from Iran, where almost the entire population has had covid-19 at least once, and it appears to have done them no good at all. 

Beyond the usual incompetence, it is hard to pinpoint why this is happening. Something akin to the Israeli situation may be playing out, where the jabbings were done early and the antibodies acquired via the initial double-inoculation also wore off comparatively briskly. 

There the problem was promptly resolved by issuing boosters, but Boris has a knack for acting just outside of the main window of opportunity. 

Greene on Greene

Early on in this biography, we learn how chuffed Donald Trump was to find himself in Hanoi where there were "tremendous crowds" and "so much love". POTUS45 checked into the Hotel Metropole, where Graham Greene had once stayed, and was (of course), immediately dubbed 'the unquiet American'.

The title of Greene's novel had already, in a sense, inferred this gag. The first time it is used by Fowler, the narrator, he says he uttered it as one might 'blue lizard' or 'white elephant'. 

For reasons that now seem a little illogical to me, I have long held an association between Graham Greene and the city of Mérida, where the pic above was taken. 

It may have something to do with the fact that this was the first substantial urban space I had visited in what we now call the developing world. I had by then made around half a dozen jaunts behind the Iron Curtain, but this felt like a novel way of being 'off the ranch'. 

Mérida itself had a semi-derelict ambience it has since largely shed. I rather rudely compared the inhabitants in my journal of March '88 to "little fish swimming around inside the flooded staterooms of the Titanic." 

And in the bars and cafes around the zócalo one often came across men dressed as one then imagined agents with tropical assignments might dress. Our Man in Havana. I hadn't yet read Greene's 'entertaiment', but I had an intuitive sense of the basic aesthetic. 

In those days spies tended to dress like spies. Most of the KGB types I came across in the USSR tended to wear long brown leather greatcoats. The men that is. The women were invariably glamorous with fur hats and foxy, fur-lined knee-length boots. 

And over here in Central America Langley men dressed like Magnum PI, in the main, occasionally accented with a pork pie hat. There were significant clusters of them in Belize, around Belmopan in particular, but Mérida appeared to have its fair share. 

Some introduced themselves with unlikely-sounding titles like Operations Logistics Officer. Others were importers of "a great many things". One tended to assume that they were "engaged in one of those services so ineptly called secret", as Greene himself put it. 

That men causing a degree of trouble (but for the best of reasons) might wear loud shirts and look and sound as if they belong elsewhere, is picked up in another amusing line from The Quiet American...
“I noticed that he was wearing a Hawaii shirt, even though it was comparatively restrained in colour and design. I was surprised: had he been accused of un-American activities?”

Ickle Siniy

It was The Power And The Glory that alerted me to the fact that Greene was one of the greats. Yet it is as messy, wrong-headed and flawed as it is wonderful. The Quiet American on the other hand is fractally good: every chapter, every paragraph, every sentence, every word is close to perfection in pretty much exactly the same way. 

The character of Pyle has qualities which remind me of my original travelling companion in Mérida. His father was a member of the Athenaeum Club, his mother a Coca-Cola heiress, and he had secured via prospectus significant philanthropic investment in an archaeological expedition that at times seemed to present a front for all sorts of extra-curricular meddling. 

He "got involved" and believed it was the right thing to do, albeit in an oddly detached and ultimately abstract way. 

Was I really involved? I am not sure I was, beyond that feeling of excitement. "Was that a grenade?" Pyle asks. And I was constantly aware how others I came across emitted that same fizzle of youthful engagement, usually yet more intensely, to the extent that they appeared to have projected themselves into an imaginative space that differed markedly from the one they were actually in. 

The source of all this — then as now, disturbance and struggle — appeared more appealingly picturesque than contemporary equivalents. 

Yet I sometimes wonder if I am more involved now, in spite of the manner with which the superficial thrill has waned. 

Fowler was in little doubt...

“One forgets so quickly one’s own youth: once I was interested myself in what for want of a better term they call news. But grenades had staled on me; they were something listed on the back page of the local paper...

“You know, if you live in a place for long you cease to read about it.”

(The cocktail above @catrinmid : Mezcal Mil Amores, pomegranate juice and chile syrup.)

Friday, October 22, 2021

Night Teeth (2021)

There was some promise here. A likeable cast, some fun LA locations. The direction is not all bad. Shame then that everything else is such utter pants. 

There is certain silliness in a genre story beyond which it is nearly always fatal for the screenplay to take itself too seriously. The sun comes up rather suddenly, and...

Thursday, October 21, 2021

Dune (2021)

Absolutely awesome. One of those movies with two or three scenes you have to go back and watch again, multiple times. The first of these, which occurs around the twenty minute mark, took me to an enhanced level of attention that I never really came down from. (Peak Charlotte Rampling...)

This is the work of a director in his pomp, comfortable with showing off his influences while he being strikingly singular and original. In that he now surpasses Tarantino. 

Villeneuve is playing with visual references, from the likes of Star Wars, The Matrix, GOT, even Apocalypse Now, and he knows he can do it with impunity here because Frank Herbert’s 1965 novel has unimpeachable status as an antecedent. 

He is perhaps also flirting with the artistic thought-crime of 'orientalism', like a man who knows he is going to get away with it, because his source did. 

He even throws in a tribute to Teotihuacán. And there's a chap going down a ramp playing the bagpipes that tells you everything you need to know in an instant about what Denis is up to here. 

It even has one or two decently memorable lines. Not sure if this one was lifted from Herbert or not, as I have never taken on the door-stopper...

“The mystery of life isn’t a problem to solve, but a reality to experience.”

My favourite sci-fi novel at prep-school was Foundation. Time to get bingeing!

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Mystify: Michael Hutchence (2019)

A flawed but very saddening documentary. 

As with Roadrunner, it was perhaps a bit too cagey about its rather obvious omissions. Such as the identity of the last person to see Michael Hutchence alive, Kym Wilson, the Aussie actress he would appear to have been dating at the time of his suicide in Sydney. 

It struck us that ex-girlfriend Kyle Minogue was the only interviewee willing to open up completely, permitting the inclusion of his home videos of herself, semi-naked on the Orient Express, and unflinchingly citing his drug taking. 

At the end we learn here that the coroner discovered evidence of brain damage relating to an incident in Copenhagen a few years earlier, but not that he detected alcohol, cocaine, Prozac and other prescription drugs in the dead man's organism. 

In its elliptical path the film rubs up against the Hutchence family milieux on several occasions and I ended up wanting more of this. He was my senior by something like seven years, yet his parents very clearly lived within an environment similar to my own, one that is starting to be serially misrepresented within contemporary culture, because the current crop of creatives usually lack any direct personal connection to it.

Michael himself addressed the world in mild Australian English with a thespy lilt. It is easy to see why he might have ended up with a niggly complex about artistic authenticity. 

There's a reminder of how he was humiliated at an awards show at the inception of the Britpop era. Noel Gallagher of Oasis accepted a gong from him with the quip that "'asbeens" should not be presenting such things to "gonna-bees". 

This from the Mancunian twat who today moans to the tabloids that there aren't enough old-style rockstars around. 

Earlier in the film we get a short making-of sequence in Prague...

This song at least was properly heartfelt and very authentic. 

The video reminded me of my one and only trip to the Czech(oslavackian) capital in 1992. I was there in a professional capacity, tasked with completing the recruitment to our network of a small team already established in an office within a largely deserted and derelict old hospital in the city. 

I don't think I was aware at the time of this journey — or indeed during another taken a little later to Warsaw — just how striking and transitory a phase in European history this would turn out to be. 

Our hosts would lead me and my colleague out of their post-apocalyptic working environment and up to the Castle, which was that evening denuded of any other kind of casual visitor, something I believe unlikely to ever occur again in my lifetime. 

The Bunny Boiler Defence

Johnny Depp here makes for a rather poor paradigm of the counter-cancellation culture paladin. 

People around here tend to forget that in his ill-fated London case last year Depp was not the accused, but rather the accuser, making use of the UK's strict libel laws (much beloved of Russian oligarchs and Middle-Eastern potentates) in a seriously misjudged bid to cancel press freedom. 

He there deployed many of the tactics that manifest on the page where I found that image: a trail of positive character-witnesses for himself, something more akin to black ops when it came to the personality of his ex. 

But, let's face it, the bunny boiler defence is not inherently imprudent. 

I myself have had to defend myself from malicious, vindictive and demonstrably false denuncias made against me by a Guatemalan woman. Given that these were also mostly delusional, I could certainly intuit the basic appeal. 

Yet to be credible, this form of defence has to be grounded in solid evidence rather than imprecise, misogynistic innuendo.  

Nevertheless, the situation that Depp provoked in the legal system of my country provided a more suitable home for a tactical exchange of barbs. 

In libel proceedings the parties can act more like politicians approaching the same controversies from completely different world-views. We witness such discourse all around us to today on issues like vaccination mandates. 

In a criminal trial things are markedly different. This is because there is an underlying imbalance in the burden of truth for the testimonies, for while politicians tend to be dishonest for mostly the same, depressing reasons, in a criminal case the motivation for mendacity is more pronounced with the defendant, who will often do or say anything — typically via a salaried surrogate — in order to generate reasonable doubt and thus remain un-convicted. 

Blatantly dishonest cases for the prosecution are rarer, usually because the accuser has to pass through several filters before the trial commences, by which time, in most countries where justice is taken seriously, it is the state that is doing the actual prosecuting, not the victim.  

After my wife was abused in 2018-19 by our neighbour Jason Wade Lever she had to submit to interview by INACIF and a psychological examination. The report supported her, which is surely why it has repeatedly disappeared in part or whole from the case file prior to the audiencias

Unlike Diego Stella, Lever has never had the decency to offer up any sort of testimony that could explain or excuse his behaviour, either the gender abuse directed against my wife or the threats of conspiracy and death against me. 

"I don't accept the charges" he parrots, as if his defiance alone invalidates them and the evidence behind them, which he clearly never wants to have to respond to in a court. 

And rather like Diego Ariel Stella, he appears to have very few misgivings about deploying the women around him and other family members as foot soldiers/cannon-fodder. The Argentinian's sister is fast acquiring her own set of denuncias.*

Stella's whiney testimony meanwhile is in the grips of the 'she said, he said' fallacy — the notion that guilt cannot be established on the basis of two largely incompatible verbal accounts of events. 

The judge will have a pair of possible interpretations available to him. That both parties experienced the same events in such a differentially-subjective fashion that neither could be said to have fabricated their version per se. This is perhaps a less likely scenario than the alternative: that one or both are consciously lying. 

In order to determine if this indeed the case, I would be looking beyond the logical consistency of the narratives on each side. Sometimes the context, and even more crucially, the interplay, is also important and can act as the tie-breaker. She said and he said are locked together in an embrace. 

In Stella's case I had no real reason, beyond those inherent to the process, to substantially favour his accuser Verónica Molina Lee over him, yet there was something about his account of events that morning that rung alarm bells. 

I concluded that a man who had believed from the start that the accusation was utterly false, that Molina Lee was lying simply in order to damage him — a wolf in sheep's clothing, as Projusticia GT have it ** — would have come up with a story that was different to hers in more significant ways. 

Yet, as I have mentioned before, the counsel Stella has apparently received has been abject. Dividing his own social media counter-communications between one page which screams integrity (a little too loudly) and another which is essentially a more anonymised campaña negra against the victim, is both deceitful and absurd. 

The basic rules of effective crisis communications would seem to apply here, like keep it simple, speak through a single voice, deliver clear and unambiguous messaging, stick to the 5 Ws (and the truth), and so on. 

Very few professionals would recommend demeaning the informer(s) or the media, or even just politicising the arguments in front of the court of public opinion.

Johnny Depp and his ex were on equal footing to a large extent, but Stella is not sitting across from his lover in a debating chamber, he is in the dock. 

Things he now says will be taken as evidence against him, and he runs the risk that his media outpourings stoke reprisals that further hurt him. Or indeed just stir up randomly relevant comments such as...

With friends like this...

Insinuating that his victim is obsessive and manipulative on a Facebook page which is clearly both of these things, as well as conspicuously vulgar, is not the way to convince the public, let alone a competent judge. 

The judge will be making his decision within the confusing panopticon of modern gender politics. Attempting to have non-consensual sex with one's lover while she slumbers is not quite as heinous a crime as abducting, constraining and violating random women in the street. No means no does not mean that all rapes are on a par, at least as far as sentencing goes. 

Yet another important consideration will necessarily come into play. Does the defendant represent a wider public risk? 

On this, as well as the reported fétiches and other unhelpful comments on his FB page, Stella is on a bit of a sticky wicket, because the alleged offence occurred in a context where he had blithely renounced monogamy. The prosecution will surely reason that other women could be considered in danger. 

* A fairly shallow dive into el feis reveals that the woman in Argentina claiming to have ten years of marriage to Stella behind her, appears to have a long lasting connection to certain high profile figures in La Antigua plus the bufete of Claudia Paniagua, and was apparently still quite young in pictures with them only six years ago, which makes her story seem fragile at best, and her social media presence overall contrasts somewhat with the serious 'profe' image adopted for the video. Nice gafas though

** And it's PAY attention, you muppets. 

Saturday, October 16, 2021

Diego the Unready (2)

Poor Diego is seemingly the only person to consider this turn of events truly newsworthy — the upholding of the charges as originally presented. 

In the US, and it has to be said that my claim to scholarship of their system is based entirely on movies and TV, District Attorneys seem to profer the lesser charge as a kind of enticement — for they understand that sometimes 'full' guilt is hard to demonstrate beyond all reasonable doubt. 

Yet in such circumstances the downgrade is tendered as a quid pro quo: the defendant has to fess up to the lesser offence. 

Diego Ariel Stella seems to want to do the same deal and yet still have the opportunity to walk away an innocent man, even though it should be obvious to even his most insensate friends and advisors that his best chance of an 'unproven' outcome — in the Scottish sense — is an all-out defence in court against the most prejudicious allegation. 

Meanwhile, whilst I might have mouthed off about my wife's three years of legal travails in her case involving flasher Jason Lever, I don't think I have ever walked out of one of the audiencias only to immediately criticise — and morally censure — by name, the presiding judge. This I believe crosses a line that in the UK we call contempt of court. Whatever else one may imagine one can do within a legal process, direct criticism of the judge is always a no-no. *

And, as I mentioned in the previous post, this reader has had his fair-minded, 'objective' view of the case recalibrated by Diego's own testimony relating to the specific events in the bedroom, which comes across as self-incriminating. 

It strikes me that Stella's ghost writer has erroneously concluded that the best approach here is to anticipate Verónica Molina's account of that morning and then lay alongside it a version that accurately resembles that which a seriously confused male might report.

It's a tactic that is consistent with the Argentinian's intention of appearing gentlemanly, but manifests as spurious. 

He seems to have become handcuffed by the story he originally gave to INACIF, along with the tension he faces between two basically incompatible urges: to play the gent whilst gent-ly marking his accuser as a bunny-boiler. 

All these problems derive from the bad advice he was given at the start. I have witnessed his (former) lawyer in action, and her arguments almost never result in incremental gains. Once their credibility is questioned they collapse, leaving her client worse off than before. Her approach is obstruction, which always has a do or die quality to it. 

Anyway, those of us with profounder interest in the topic have Ridley Scott's The Last Duel to look forward to. One reviewer I follow complained about having to witness the rape from two, almost identical points of view, thereby perhaps missing the point the movie is trying to make about the way these narratives are constructed. 

* However, on Friday the pre-eminent judge Rocael Girón rejected an appeal by Stella's defence team and the MP, 'para privilegiar el principio de publicidad y la libertad de expresión y de emisión de pensamiento.'

Friday, October 15, 2021

Zone 414 (2021)

How one responds to this film will depend to a large extent on how one feels about it being a bargain basement Irish knock-off of Blade Runner. 

In the end I was a little more amused than bothered. There is a single New York yellow cab that crops up on numerous occasions that I started to appreciate as a kind of recurring gag. 

The conflicted 'synthetic' personage here, the Sean Young role if you like, is played by Matilda Anna Ingrid Lutz, and played well enough, perhaps riffing off my father's old friend Gabrielle Drake as Gay Ellis in UFO

The movie does make one apparently original contribution to the genre — androids that can change their hair colour with a shake of the head. Blink and you will miss it..even if you are trying to shuffle the tint of your irises.

In the detail...

A detail from Little Denise, 1889. One of Theo Van Rysselberghe's first stabs at the puntillismo technique, which he adopted after seeing the works of Seurat, adding his own blend of emotional expressiveness with the strikingly delicate rendering of the face of his six-year old niece Denise Maréchal (1883-1956) — later Madame George Béart. 

For how long did little Denise have to hold that pose? 

I recently came across a passage in Katie Kitamura's Intimacies in which the narrator describes some reflections on "temporal blurring" at the Mauritshuis. 

For if photographers are mostly looking to capture stuff between the lines, the painter usually has the subject before them for longer (though some work from photos these days), allowing the brush to yield the lines themselves. This is why I find it rather drôle when snappers self-consciously pose as poets of the visual, for the layering they attain is nearly always an artifact of the technology — as the lens itself typically 'sees' only the thinnest of instants. 

Kitamura suggests that one can "feel the weight of time passing" in a portrait posed for during the pre-photographic era. "I thought that was why, as I stood before a painting of a young girl in half-light, there was something that was both guarded and vulnerable in her gaze. It was not the contradiction of a single instant, but rather it was as if the painter had caught her in two separate states of emotion, two different moods, and managed to contain them within the single image.”

Seurat himself was always a bit more hardcore in the broken brush mode. This is a close up of one of the company from Parade de Cirque (Circus Sideshow), his first nocturnal scene, painted a year or so before Van Rysselberghe's niece (see previous post), during 1887-8. Back in 1986 I came across a French artist based on the Côte d'Azur who was still banging out a pastel-paletted, pointilliste pasticcio for the comfortably and obscenely wealthy — Serge Mendjisky

At the time I was holed up for the summer in a rather fabulous gated community west of Cannes called Port La Galère, laid down by architect Jacques Savin Couelle, a guest of a family friend who was acting somewhat informally as both patron and a sort of agent to said Serge. 

She possessed a Renoir above the fireplace in her London home, not in fact the real deal, but a bona fide hand-painted facsimile, which hung there in lieu of the original, which she owned, but habitually sat inside a sort of airtight safe off-site. 

Her father had been quite the collector, and not just of the more moveable kind of assets. You could say he played Monopoly for real, having once owned Piccadilly Circus. 

She had several little 'projects' around the Riviera, many of which were perhaps more deserving than Serge, but she had a genuine fondness for his doggedly nostalgic style, even if she had once observed mischievously to me that he painted for people who couldn't afford a real impressionist, which at that precise moment in time tended to mean people who were not Japanese. Google him and you might see what she meant. (Two examples here, above and below.)

I had in mind that Serge passed away many years ago, but when I looked him up myself today I discovered that he left us in May 2017.

Thursday, October 14, 2021

Diego the Unready

As any student of early England can attest, Æthelred the Unready, obtained his famous nickname not by virtue of being consistently under-prepared, but because contemporary commentators deemed him unræd, badly advised. 

It strikes me that alleged rapist Diego Stella has similarly been the recipient of markedly poor counsel ever since the accusation against him was made. 

He began by choosing a defence lawyer notorious in this country, as has now been widely publicised, for below board subterfuge and delaying tactics, as well as for representing an assortment of shady characters, and alleged sex offenders, a pick he now characterises rather unconvincingly as a naive, beginner's mistake. 

He also asserts that she was not a magistrada at the Constitutional Court at the time of her appointment to his team, which is not strictly true, given that it would seem, according to the public record, that she had already been elected to the position, if not fully confirmed, and was very much part of the circles he was mixing in.

These claims form part of Mi Testimonio, a serialisation of Stella's version of events being pumped out on social media as he awaits trial on remand. 

I used to work with some of the world's leading experts on media communications, almost all of whom would have told Stella to put a sock in it some time ago, for this stream of self-pitying twaddle can only be doing him more harm than good. 

Part of the storm he has faced over the past few weeks can be said to derive from his pre-existing, localised celebrity in La Antigua and it should not seem obvious that adding fuel to that comparatively small flame is the correct thing to do under these circumstances — however much it might irk him and his supporters that his alleged victim Verónica Molina has seemingly been "#astuta" in mounting her own media campaign

The latest post, published yesterday on the eve of the audiencia, is surely the most ill-advised of the lot, not least because it patronises and to some extent demeans his alleged victim, and surely also further humiliates his own wife and their children in ways that will last long beyond his trial. 

In previous posts Stella has suggested that the protest outside the Juzgado during earlier sessions was directed against him personally. In fact the demonstrators appeared to have had something more abstract in mind: the principle that no means no even within an existing relationship, and that it is fundamentally wrong for someone sitting on Guatemala's highest court to be arguing to the contrary. 

In UK law, the alleged victim of rape is provided with explicit protections that the victims of other crimes often lack. Verónica Mólina might have chosen to waive her anonymity here, but demonstrably did so in order to make public a series of violations of her rights as the alleged victim of rape, and not in order to satiate a public need for lurid details or indeed to spur her abuser on to a tit-for-tat digital duel, replete with opportunities to pose as the victim himself. 

Indeed, she was rather obviously doing what she needed to do to respond to the fact that the charges against her alleged rapist had been modified (downgraded) before she had a chance to present her own testimony and evidence in court, a manipulation that Diego Stella still appears committed to. 

At no point have her own legal representatives made apparently absurd pronouncements to the media along the lines of 'it cannot have been rape because the victim didn't arrive at hospital in a wheelchair'. 

She has been trying, for reasons we appreciate, to establish an environment that is more favourable to all victims of gender violence in Guatemala. 

Meanwhile, via his online testimony, Diego Stella has been offering her a ton of backhanded, inanely-hashtagged compliments — as if to keep up the cabashero posture — yet at the same time providing no concrete motivation which might explain her sudden desire to ruin his life, and possibly her own along the way, by putting herself through the mill in this fashion. 

The testimony as it stands also offers no recognition that he has paid the inevitable price for the manner with which he responded to the denuncia from the outset, nor demonstrates any awareness that some of the statements he is making in public in this manner might actually dispose a judge to give Verónica Molina the benefit of the doubt. 

If he is indeed an innocent man facing untrue allegations, he should not need telling that all he has to do now surely is address the need to present a credible defence in court. 

Nobody outside the juzgado really needs to know about his humble origins in Argentina and all his hard work to establish himself here. It is simply not relevant. A judge will have to determine if there can be reasonable doubt whether he forced himself upon an on/off girlfriend. 

The wife of V's abuser Jason Wade Lever has three times made unabashedly false and vindictive denuncias against me, twice utilising magistrada Claudia Paniagua to do so, and on each occasion I have presented myself at the first time of asking and have provided evidence that the accusations were grounded in lies and blatant fabrications. That is the task which confronts Stella right now. 

I did not resort to shameful legal manipulations nor deny my accuser the opportunity to make her case, however duplicitous it ultimately turned out to be, and he must also face up to this requirement, as any sujeto procesal here should do. 

The magistrada has consistently deployed all of her signature manoeuvres against my wife, effectively making the process of getting any form of justice drag on for over three years. Her client Jason Lever has made sure he has never had to listen to the evidence against him in front of a judge. This is the coward's way, and not one that Stella should be imitating if the allegations against him are unfounded. 

In the western canon there are many tales of individuals who sign away their immortal souls. I cannot recall one in which the Arch-Enemy recuses himself and then he and his client agree to part ways amicably, because the whole thing was a bit of a tactical booboo. 

If Stella's chances of a fair outcome have been upset in any way, this will not have been the doing of his alleged victim, but a consequence of his own very poor decision-making in the immediate aftermath of alleged events, and all the bad counsel that this entailed. (And if you hire a big shot's lawyer do not be so surprised when people start to take big shots at you.)

Some of the damage, inevitably, may prove hard to reverse. Yet I am struggling to believe that he signed up to the skulduggery programme for reasons of callowness alone. 

* On one occasion, remarkably, I was not even in the country at the time of the alleged offence. 

** In our experience one of the games that are played here is to reverse the allegation at the earliest opportunity, something that in principle is much harder to do in the case of rape, but in this instance some telling insinuations have still been made against the victim. 

The Squid Game


A television landmark for sure. Though it perhaps suffered from a minor frailty that I tend to associate with reality TV competitions in general, such as Big Brother, along with tentpole tournaments like the FIFA World Cup — they are perhaps never more compelling than in their earlier phases when a more or less complete complement of competitors remains. 

For me this show peaked around episode six (marbles), the equivalent perhaps of the last round of the group phase, where the stakes were suddenly strikingly elevated, along with our awareness of possibly losing players we had come to care about. 

It has to be said that by then we had already pre-twigged the two twists that would be served up in the penultimate and concluding episodes, but that didn't significantly erode our engagement. 

It has to be said that the non-Korean 'VIPs' were handled in a comparatively unskillful way. 

There are perhaps just enough unanswered questions to make a second season viable. 

Game one — red light, green light — was perhaps the most iconic and the scene had an added edge for me as Fly Me To The Moon was surely my mother's favourite Sinatra song, and I had the instrumental version by Oscar Peterson played at her funeral. The one used here is an oomphed up production of this...

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Junk Emporium

The buses in La Antigua are now doing what the restaurants have seemingly always done — cheekily charging passengers a premium for all the empty seats around them.

Covid-19 might have reset demand levels back a decade or so, but there has so far been no corresponding reset in supply. If anything, the pandemic has accelerated a pre-existing underlying trend, which has seen the city steadily transformed into an open-air emporium of overpriced junk — junk food, junk clothes, junk...

There has been a concomittant surge of visual clutter as well, an aesthetic degradation by stealth which one doesn't imagine is actually costing an arm and a leg in the traditional sense.

Those banners on the lamp-posts are no more, but the other day I found myself in the Parque Central wondering when that imitation airport terminal corridor will finally be cleared away from the front of the Capitanes General. 

Saturday, October 09, 2021


This month we received the first income from the sale of avocados grown on our finca near Parramos. 

Not a fortune, it has to be said, but enough to seed the idea of writing 'farmer' in that box on the SAT form each time I enter and exit the country. (Or, if should I be feeling really hoité-toité — terrateniente!)

In days of old the finca produced top quality coffee, but it has became hard to protect the place from illicit picking and so a few years ago a decision was taken to clear away all the gravilea, which left us with the aguacatales and their harder-to-harvest pears. 

Of the lands my wife inherited, this one is my favourite, for its hillside location and for the river that streams through its elbow, parched like this for half of the year. 


All of a sudden this week, the UK thinned down its covid hotspot redlist to just seven countries, including Panama and Colombia (to which my nephew has just flown from Canada with no trouble at all), but no longer including either Mexico or Guatemala. 

And in a reverse tit-for-tat gesture the government of Guatemala immediately removed us from its own index of forbidden migrants, thus ending a prolonged period of either impossible or quarantine-clogged journeys between our nations. 

In truth the UK was being punished for the sins of England, and these had largely been righted some time ago. 

This is welcome news I suppose for La Antigua, as European visitors have been scarce throughout the era of the pandemia, and London's major airports have always represented the simplest and most cost-effective method of crossing the pond.

Friday, October 08, 2021

Queenpins (2021)


A movie that might have been merely mediocre, yet finds ways to be execrable — a celebration of amoral dumbness, that suggests that not only the 1% of plucky American overdogs, but also the plucky underdogs up there are 'scum', as a certain Labour politician might say. 

Along the way we learn that Kristen Bell is no big screen star (the wig does not help), though Kirby Howell Baptiste, one of two sidekicks from The Good Place appearing here, has some serious potential. And yet she has been saddled with a maternal figure that is one of the most blatant racial stereotypes I've lately seen on celluloid: a flesh and blood version of Mammy Two Shoes from Tom & Jerry. 

As for Vince Vaughan, his palpable discomfort in every scene he has to do becomes one of the film's funnier gags. 

How many of the audience were unaware that the pair's illicit earnings weren't already laundered and didn't have to be invested in assault weapons which could then be sold on to a moronic militia? How hilarious. 

The action is capped off with one of the captured coupon queenpins informing her visiting husband that he's an 'asshole', when there is only one of those in that scene and it surely isn't him. A truly awkward girl power moment FAIL. 

This after the pair of idiotic criminals have mused how they are not really guilty of fraud. Yes they were. If I sell something which doesn't belong to me, like the finca next door to mine, that's fraud. And in this instance of coupones hueviados, with added smuggling.